Truth telling: That pit of dread in my chest

studyng

It depends on the day whether I’m fine or not. There are days when I’m so damn grateful for everything I have, everything I get to do, every single way I’ve been blessed in this overabundant life of mine. But then there are other days like today, when I feel like I’ll explode if someone asks me to do one more thing.

My school semester is over, and it was the hardest one I’ve experienced so far. The first semester of college, I couldn’t understand what the fuss was. It was easy, a piece of cake. The second semester was a little bit harder. For those of you following along, my English class kicked my butt in all the best ways, challenging me to dig deeper with my words. I ended that class with an A, but I fought for that A.

This semester, I was pushed way out of my comfort zone. I took no English classes, deciding to take a break because my last English class was so hard. Wow, did I regret that. I was stuck in classes I had no interest in, and the lessons were like being placed in an advanced French class with a 1st year Spanish understanding.

I shed many tears this semester.

After weeks of stress, tearing my hair out, questioning my existence, and dreaming of running away, I took my last final on Monday. I totally bombed it, but I was past the point of caring. My brain shut down and I had nothing left to give. Even the simple questions drew blanks from me. When I handed in the test, I knew more than half of it was wrong, and I hoped my teacher would count my effort as part of my credit, and that the rest of the semester’s work would outweigh the bombed test.

Here I am, two days later, and I’m still recovering. I drove home from work today with a huge knot in my chest as I regretted everything I felt stuck in—my job, my finances, several more years of school, and every other thing that forces me to work a 9-5 I dread while my dream job travels further and further away.

I have regular sessions with God about this whole dream of mine, and we’ve mapped out a plan together on how to make it happen. The simple answer right now is that I need to take a short break from writing books (my next book publishes Feb. 5. After that, who knows?) and focus on getting better at my craft through school and personal writing. With time, I will have learned things I can apply to my books, and it may help move my dream career along. But it’s going to take time.

Time. Patience. Keep getting up and doing the same thing day in and day out so that one day you can do the things you want to do. I’m tired. I’m frustrated. I wish it didn’t have to take so long. I feel like I’ve wasted so much time, and regret the things I should have been doing instead of taking shortcuts. I regret the thousands of dollars I’ve spent on publishing my books, and the hundreds I’ve made back. Each book sells less and less, costs me more and more, and I don’t have it in me to do the hustle. Because of that, I wonder if I even have it in me to be an author. If I can’t sell my books, what business do I have making this a business?

Thing is, I’ve lost my faith in my books…. There I go, admitting things I should never admit to potential readers. But there it is. I can’t suggest you read my books when I worry about how many things you will find wrong with them. This tiny admission is probably better in my personal journal than out in the open, but I find honesty is a more courageous thing to share.

At any rate, I feel guilty whenever I get stuck in this place. I prayed for this life, and I got it. I’m the one who decided to go back to school. I said yes to every single thing that now wants a piece of me. I wrote a damn book on organizing your full-time life to make room for your craft, and ever since, I’ve been so weighed down I can’t even breathe. Seems that every time I project an absolute, God laughs and proves me wrong.

I’ll be okay, I’m just having a moment. I’m sorry to be such a bummer! Tomorrow I’ll probably be back to counting my blessings, and the next day I’ll be back to lamenting my failures. It’s just the cycle I’m in.

Advertisements

Love letter to my sadistic, ego-stripping, hard as nails English professor

When I walked into my Critical Thinking class at the beginning of this semester, I automatically assumed it would be an easy A. I’d sailed through English 1A the semester before, and thought that this advanced English class would be along the same route. After all, I’ve written eight books (and counting), and I work at a newspaper. Writing, to me, is like breathing. I figured that all of this gave me an edge on the other students, and I did my best to keep my ego in check and open myself up to learn something new.

The professor came in, and she was seriously like a dream. She was this outspoken Jewish woman who was incredibly well-versed in all the literature classics, and she brought us food so we wouldn’t starve during her class. Plus, she was a total passionate liberal, and she had numerous news sources to back up everything she stated.

Here was this book loving, newspaper reading, incredibly wise woman leading our class. I felt like I’d met my soulmate. My love for her and this class only increased when I realized I would NOT be earning an easy A. I was about to be educated, and I couldn’t have been more excited about it.

I was so naïve.

The difficulty of this course increased with each class. She raised her expectations of us to a bar we couldn’t reach. She often mused about the disservice our previous teachers had given us in not teaching us certain things, assigning certain books, pushing us to our hardest levels. Thinking back to some of the lame books and essays I’d had to read during last semester, I agreed. Yet, it didn’t change the way she kept pushing.

Things came to a head when she split us into groups so we could present a certain topic to the class. I’ve never loved public speaking. In fact, this one area holds me back in my book career. If I could figure out a way to write and sell books without ever having to speak to a crowd, I’d do it in a heartbeat. I would have traded writing a dozen essays instead of conducting a five-minute presentation in front of the class—and that’s not an exaggeration.

My group and I had spent weeks poring over the reading so that we understood our topic. I was a bundle of nerves for a whole week before that dreaded class. However, my nerves subsided (as they usually do) once it was our turn to present. When it became my turn to speak, I knew the material well enough that I didn’t even need to look at my notes. I thought we were crushing it.

And then I looked at my professor’s face.

I faltered in that moment, forgetting everything I’d studied over the past few weeks as I took in her furrowed brow, the thin line of her lips, the air of disappointment that surrounded her. Quickly, I averted my gaze and finished what we’d rehearsed. At the end of the longest five minutes of my life, I took my seat with the knowledge that we’d failed.

In fact, we had. The whole class had. Following our presentations, the professor raked us over the coals for every way we’d failed to follow directions. Our group ended up with a B on that presentation, but the way she verbally whipped us, I was sure we’d all received an F.

englishpaper
I actually thought this essay was perfect when I turned it in…

Little by little, this teacher deflated the ego I’d shown up to class with on that first day. The essays I wrote, revised, and re-wrote came back to me full of red marks for things I’d missed. Class discussions became more intense. And the workload and reading requirements increased substantially. I found myself counting down the days until this class could be over so that I could curl into a fetal position and lick my wounds for the three months of summer.

As that day came closer, however, I started to realize how much she’d taught me. Her style of teaching was akin to throwing us in the deep end and telling us to swim. However, it forced us to think for ourselves as we strived to reach that impossible bar. I’m still not sure I’ve reached it; however, it seems closer than it was before.

Tomorrow is my final class with this professor, and I have mixed feelings of relief and disappointment. I don’t know if I’ll ever be in a class that will push me this hard in my Major, or will teach me this much about writing and collecting information. Honestly, if she suggested I quit school in favor of learning everything she had to teach, I’d become her disciple in a heartbeat.

As I prepare for this last class, one decision is plaguing me. This professor has no idea I’m an author. Once I realized how much I still had to learn, I chose to keep my novels under wraps. I came there to learn, and I didn’t want her to think I thought I was too big for my britches. Plus, I was sure she’d mark up my book with red ink, pointing out every time I was too wordy, used passive voice, or committed some other literary faux pas.

Now that we’ve reached the end, I keep going back and forth on whether I should reveal that I’m an author and present her with one of my books. If I did, I’d give her Loving the Wind or The Road to Hope, the two books I’m most proud to have written. But every time I think of giving them to her, I can feel the apologies and explanations rising up: I still have a lot to learn…my next books will be better…I promise to work on my passive voice…don’t read them… I’m totally overthinking what should just be a gift. All I want to do is offer her the things I’m most proud of as a thank you for all she’s offered me.

I know I need to give her one (or more) of my books. I know I need to just get over my fear and do it. I let fear win far too often, and this is one chance to overcome that fear and move forward. However, jury is still out on whether those books ever leave my backpack during my final Critical Thinking class.

P.S. If I do give her a book, which one do you think I should give her?

Focusing on one thing at time

busy

This morning, I found myself in between the craziness of finals. I have no more homework left to do, I have enough time to study for my next final, and the essay I’m working on for English needs a day of rest. My morning was free and clear to spend on the other things I have been wanting to do. Naturally, I picked up my manuscript for Hope at the Crossroads, and resumed editing it. I haven’t been able to work on it for weeks, so this was a rare opportunity.

But guilt and distraction reared their ugly heads, and they started whispering in my ear. What about those short stories you promised to edit? You really should be taking the time out to study. You sit all day, why not go to the gym? I know, write a blog entry!

Okay, so I folded on that last one. However, I’m going to make this short. There are always going to be other things you *should* be doing, or *could* be doing. But you can’t do everything at the same time. Right now (after this blog entry), I am working on my manuscript. Just my manuscript. Tonight I will work on my short stories. Everything else will have its time, but it’s not right now. If I keep focusing on everything I *should* be doing, I’m doing a crappy job on the one thing in front of me.

Doing one thing at a time is faster than trying to do all the things at once.


Do you lead a busy life and wish you had more time for your writing? Are all the responsibilities of your day eating up the time you wish you could spend on your craft? Do you often wish you didn’t need to work full-time so that you had more time to write? Learn how to have both a full-time job AND a fulfilling writing career with Reclaim Your Creative Soul: The secrets to organizing your full-time life to make room for your craft.

American Gods, and blogging as an author

Neil-Gaiman-2Right now, I’m reading the 10th anniversary edition of American Gods, by Neil Gaiman, and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read it! This is the 3rd Gaiman book I’ve read—Neverwhere and Ocean at the End of the Lane being the others—and our family’s bookshelves hold a few more titles for me to dig into once I’m done with this one (and it’s a long book, so it will be a while). I’ve also watched Coraline or Stardust as movies before I realized they were Gaiman stories.

One of the things I love about Neil Gaiman is that he keeps a journal at his blog, and he’s pretty candid in it. There, he dismisses the fact that he’s some big named author, and he talks directly to his audience, and his audience talks back. There are no walls between his audience and him, which is pretty admirable for someone of his status.

americangodsBack when he wrote American Gods, he journaled the publishing process as he went through it. What makes this the most interesting is that he still hadn’t reached global acclaim as an author. He’d had a few literary successes, but none of it compared to the success he was about to see with American Gods. These blog entries still exist on his blog, showing an inside look at what was going through his mind in those early days.

This is what I love about this blog, and what I try to do here—kind of. I’m no Neil Gaiman (I’d love to be half the writer he is), but I’d like to think that this blog will one day be a record of what it was like before I was a successful bestselling author, and then continue to be a gateway between me and readers. Admittedly, I find it hard to write here when I’m in the middle of a book project, which is why there is a lot of space between entries. Gaiman mentioned in his own blog that he didn’t start publicly journaling about American Gods until he was into the publishing process because most of his entries would go back and forth between “This is the best thing I’ve ever written” to “This is pure and utter crap.”

And ain’t that the truth?

I keep a personal journal so that I don’t have to subject any of you to my schizophrenic way of thinking about my books. Right now, I’m in the editing phase of book 2 of The Road to Hope series, and I’m really struggling with it. My journal is filled with the same kind of sentiments in my book that Gaiman mentions—thinking it’s both brilliant and terrible, sometimes in the same journal entries.

But that’s the reality of being an author. These books are both brilliant and terrible. As Gaiman said (quoting the poet and author Randall Jarrel), “a novel can best be defined as a long piece of prose with something wrong with it.” There are hopes and dreams we have for these books before and during the writing process, and often we just can’t realize all of those hopes and dreams in the final product.

So I’ll keep chugging along with editing book 2, and then I’ll move on to book 3. And along the way I’ll continue reading brilliant authors like Neil Gaiman so that I’ll be inspired to always strive to be a better writer.

P.S. Do you want a sneak peek at the covers of the next to books in The Road to Hope series? Click here.

Two novels, four months. Here’s how.

Back in November, I battened down the hatches and cleared my schedule to take part in yet another NaNoWriMo. As you may remember, I really grappled with whether I would actually write a novel this year. I’d just started school, and it was taking up a good portion of my time. I eventually made a last minute decision that I’d at least attempt a NaNoWriMo effort, and would give myself grace if I didn’t finish.

Well, I’m one persistent writer. I managed to stick to writing every day, even with a busy school and work schedule, and ended up with a rough draft novel by the end of November. I had chosen to continue the story I began in my novel, The Road to Hope, and it was incredible to revisit these characters I had grown to love when I first wrote the original story.

Thing is, the story wasn’t done when I finished that novel. Towards the end of the month, a whole new situation arose with these characters, and I realized I had another book in me. So when I finished that first book, I began the next. This time, I took my time in writing it. First, school dictated my pace. I entered a new semester with harder classes and more demanding homework. There were some weeks I could only write on the weekends.

img_8144This past weekend, I planted myself in a chair and spent three days completing the story. On Monday,  thanks to President’s Day and a work holiday, I completed the final hours of that manuscript and was finally able to type The End.

In my book, Reclaim Your Creative Soul, I encouraged all you artists on ways to work your schedule around your craft, and to place priority on being creative. And then I started school. I seriously thought my creative life was going to have to be placed on hold for the next few years, and this killed me! Not only was I sure I’d be miserable, I was also afraid of being a hypocrite. It was easy for me to tell people to make time for their craft. It’s not so easy to make that happen in real life.

Not so easy, but not impossible.

reclaim tableI stand by everything I wrote in Reclaim Your Creative Soul, especially now. We have 24 hours in each day, and there is always space to include the things we love to do. I’ve sacrificed sleep, lunch hours, mindless television, and playing on my phone in favor of writing or just being creative. Sometimes, the sacrifice is painful. But it’s always worth it because a life without creativity is worse.

Do you have anything standing in the way of your creative endeavors? You are the reason I wrote Reclaim Your Creative Soul. If you wish you could be more creative, but aren’t sure how you could possibly fit creativity into your busy schedule, then I hope you’ll pick up a copy of this book. It could totally change your life.

4 things I’m going to do when I find my iPhone

phone
My iPhone and me in happier times

Yesterday, I lost my iPhone. It was just before I started my Astronomy class, and I know exactly how it happened. I was about 30 minutes early for class, and I was headed to the bathroom. I asked another student for directions, and she was looking for directions to her next class. We figured out that we were in the same class, and I pulled out my phone so I could bring up the map. She then waited for me while I continued on to the bathroom. Once in there, I set the phone down on the TP dispenser, and did my duty. Then I left the stall, washed my hands, and we continued on to class. Twenty minutes later, I thought I’d check my phone for messages before class started only to realize I didn’t have it on me. I went back to where I left it, and, of course, it was gone. No biggie, I used my new friend’s phone to call my phone. It went straight to voicemail. Then I called my husband so he could locate it using Find My iPhone. But the phone was offline. I figured that maybe the person who had it was in class, and it just wasn’t getting reception. But here we are a day later, and the phone is still offline. I’ve called the school’s Lost & Found and I called campus police twice, and nothing has come up.

My phone is gone.

Here’s the good news. iPhone is awesome in these situations because you can put it in Lost Mode with a finder message on it. If the person who found it is honest, they’ll turn on my phone and find my husband’s cellphone number on it, and can then call us so we can meet up. Lost Mode also turns off Apple Pay, so I’m sure no one can use my credit cards from my phone.

Here’s the bad news. I used my phone for everything. And I mean, EVERYTHING. My checkbook was on there, ensuring that I always had an ironclad budget and knew my money to the penny. My passwords to everything are on there (passcode protected, fortunately), and now I am locked out of so many things until I can reset the passwords. I already blocked myself out of one of my accounts this morning. And then there’s the convenient apps I had that made life enjoyable: my Starbucks app for an occasional coffee treat, email at my fingertips, my calendar, my maps, all of my music including Spotify and Pandora, my Kindle app for reading on the go, and so on. Not to mention I’m completely unreachable unless I’m behind a computer.

I’ve already gone through several stages of grief. It started out with shock that this had actually happened. After all, I’m attached to my phone! Then came the denial as I searched and re-searched my bag for the phone I knew wasn’t there. During this stage, I also kept calm, sure that some Good Samaritan had found my phone and we’d be reunited before the night was over. Throughout the night, I began thinking of ways I could entice the person to want to give it back to me. I wanted to punch everything in sight. I submitted to a full on ugly cry. The one I’m still teetering on is acceptance, but I am clinging to hope – hope that an honest person is in possession of my phone, or that their conscience will get the better of them!

Here’s what hasn’t helped. “It’s just a phone” or “We got along fine before we had phones”. I know both of these statements are true. But my iPhone has become my personal assistant, my credit card, my entertainment, my map to the world, my music, my flashlight, my EVERYTHING. In the years that I’ve been an iPhone owner, I have slowly transferred my whole life to my phone. It has so many photos, videos, and so on that are all missing with my phone. Now that I’m without it, I am literally lost. I find myself reaching for it, and then becoming sad all over again when I rediscover it’s not there. I feel phantom vibrations, and wonder how many messages I’m missing. What if my kid needs me from school?

One way or another, I will have a phone in my hand again. If this phone doesn’t show up, I’ll be forced to bite the bullet and purchase a new one. However, once I am an iPhone user again, here are some things I vow to do (and you should, too):

1. BACKUP MY PHONE!!! Currently, my lost phone has so much stuff on it, I haven’t been able to back it up. I kept telling myself that I would clear it eventually so I could back it up properly, but I never did. So stupid! I promise to always have a current iPhone backup so that I’m never in this situation again.

2. Invest in a password manager. This I need to research more, but there are apps out there that will store my passwords in one place with some rock solid security, and I’ll have the ability to access it from my phone, my computer, etc.

3. Invest in a checkbook ledger that can be accessed on a computer. I was using iReconcile, which I loved. But the developer hasn’t updated it in years, so I just recently switched over to one that doesn’t have that capability. That meant I had some hefty balancing to do just to get things right. And now I’m back in the market for a new checkbook app.

4. Take a digital detox. It’s telling how often I am still wanting to reach for my phone, and how I don’t know what to do with myself when I feel stressed, or bored, or really any feeling at all. My phone became my crutch, the thing that muted all those unpleasant feelings so that I could move through them easier. If I felt lonely, I could scroll through Facebook. If my computer wasn’t loading, I could check my email. If I wanted to be entertained, I could watch videos. If I wanted to tune out the world, I could listen to music. But without it, I can feel emotions. I can see things around me. I can be present. I may even be able to smooth out those unsightly creases on my neck from too much bent over screentime.

In the meantime, I’m still hoping, praying, and crossing fingers that I’ll find my phone. Please think good thoughts for me!

Save

Gray hair, birthdays, and growing older with grace

happy-birthday-to-me9This week, I celebrated another year around the sun. For those of you who have been reading along for a while, you may recall how much I struggle with birthdays every year. It started on the day I turned 31, and my reaction to that day took me by surprise. Before I turned 31, I welcomed every birthday. I had no problem getting older. Even when I left my twenties to turn the big 3-0, I didn’t have an issue. But for some reason, turning 31 was a bigger deal. Part of it may have been because I was no officially IN my thirties, and not just 30. But I think the bigger issue was that I chose to celebrate my birthday in Disneyland. There I was on my 31st birthday, surrounded by all these young, adorable 20-something kids and I was just some washed up hag who was hiding wrinkles with makeup and gray hair with dye.

Ever since that year, I would dread each birthday as it came closer, and couldn’t get over the fact that I was aging.

For so many years, I took pride in being the younger person in the crowd. Having had my kids young, I’m often the youngest parent in the room at every school function. At my work, I was one of the youngest people in the newsroom. At my kids’ camp, I’ve been the youngest chaperone. And because my husband is 14 years older than I am, I’ve always been the youngest when we hang out with other couples. I placed a lot of pride on my youth. So when the tides started to turn, things began to get uncomfortable. As my kids got older, I stopped feeling like the young and fresh mom, and started feeling old and out of touch. My work started hiring all these young and brilliant millennials who are way quicker at learning new technology and social media skills. Younger chaperones signed on at camp, and have way more energy than my old body can handle. And so on.

Aging just became uncomfortable, because I had placed so much of my worth on my youth.

This year was different. I turned 39 on Dec. 7, and I didn’t have my annual freak out in the days leading up to my birthday. I think it’s because I’ve embraced the process of growing older. This is mostly apparent in the fact that I stopped dying my hair over a year ago. I am now sporting a brilliant streak of white in my hair.

crissigray2The decision to stop dying my hair was huge. I found my very first gray hair at 19 years old, the same week I discovered I was pregnant with my first child. I do believe the two go hand in hand. When plucking these pesky grays became too big of a job, I resorted to coloring my hair. At first, I went with all-natural dyes to ensure I wouldn’t harm my hair. But soon, I was grabbing any chemicals I could get my hands on to ensure my youth would be preserved.

Last year, I’d had enough. I knew I had a section of my hair that was all white, and it was apparent whenever I was between colorings. I realized that I didn’t want to be one of those “old ladies” who continued hiding their true color even when the jig was up. I wanted to go gray while my face still held some of its youthfulness. So last year, I decided to see what would happen if I just stopped dying it.

At first, the process was awkward. It looked silly. I wanted to hide my head in a scarf until I no longer had three-toned hair. But gradually, I began to look at my hair differently. The white section created this new and interesting feature to my hair. I’d play it up with different hairstyles, and starting receiving comments on how cool it looked. But most important, I actually stopped caring (for the most part) about how anyone saw it at all because I liked it. I thought it was beautiful.

Because my hair is long, it will be a while before the gray is completely grown out. I have about 5 inches of white, followed by another 7 or so inches of dye. But my hair has never worked as well as it does now. It feels better, it isn’t weighed down by dye, and it’s fun to play with.

crissigray1My hair is only one aspect that’s allowed me grace in growing older. My perspective, in general, has changed. Each year, I learn something new about myself and the world I live in. I learn what I can tolerate, and what I need to stop wasting so much energy on. I’ve learned to depend less on what other people think of me, and depend more on how I view myself. I’m learning to focus my attention more on my accomplishments and to stop putting so much weight on all I still have to do (this is a work in process, but I’m getting better).

Here are a few cool things that I’ve made happen this year:

  • I published two books I’m incredibly proud to have written: Reclaim Your Creative Soul and Loving the Wind: The Story of Tiger Lily & Peter Pan
  • I enrolled in college and am finally taking the necessary steps in taking control of my career path
  • I wrote another book, even while taking college courses, by implementing the skills I preach in Reclaim Your Creative Soul
  • My husband and I went on a gorgeous Hawaii vacation that we paid for out of pocket

***

I’ve also lost my fear of being older. I still place importance on my age, but it’s in a different way. I’m now proud of being one of the older people in the room. In my college classes, the younger students turn to me to help them understand what the teacher is saying. I’m one of the more experienced people at work. I can relate with the crowd I hang out with. And at camp, I let the young and fun chaperones burn themselves out while I rest my tired bones.

I have grace about growing older. Each new year means new opportunities. Each gray hair serves as a badge of my experiences and time on this earth. Each wrinkle is proof that I’ve spent a lot of time smiling and laughing. Each birthday is a celebration that I’m still here, and I still get time to fulfill my goals.

Growing older is not a curse. It’s a blessing. And I’m 39 years blessed, and still going.

A story about a girl who let fear keep her from blogging.

Let me tell you a story. It’s about a girl who grew so afraid of what people might think of her, she became paralyzed in that fear.

It starts with a back story.

This girl was born to be a storyteller, stemming from an early love of reading. It began with stories read to her in her mother’s lap, graduated to recognized words on the milk carton, and finally came to fruition when she read the book, Jack and the Beanstalk, to her preschool teacher. At just 4 years old, this girl was a reader! And two years later, upon learning to write, she realized she could create stories, as well. At night when she went to bed, she entertained her sister in their shared bedroom with made-up bedtime stories using a flashlight and shadow puppets. At birthdays and holidays, her gifts of stories were always highly anticipated. And she swore that one day when she was grown, her career would encompass her love of words and storytelling.

Fast forward a dozen or so years, and life continued to happen. But the path this girl was on twisted and turned in directions she hadn’t anticipated. Never being one to make risky moves, she allowed this path to take her from her dreams. It ended up being the riskiest move of all. While her goal had been to remain in her comfort zone, her path, instead, brought her into unfamiliar places and moments of danger and despair. It came time for her to decide – refrain from making a change and lose herself in the process, or make an uncomfortable bold move and try to find the person she lost.

She chose the latter, leaving her to raise two young kids on her own when she left a suffocating, abusive marriage.

It would take a year before this girl was able to drag herself off the couch. It took a few more for her to feel even remotely human. And eventually, with the love and support of her family, she was back out in the world on her own, caring for her kids the best way she could, and surviving life as a single mother, flaws and all.

It was during this time that this girl rediscovered her writing voice. It started with just writing. Then it was telling personal tales to amuse her friends. Eventually it migrated into a blog she called Wine Country Mom. The title was a little tongue-in-cheek, as she was definitely a mom in the heart of the Wine Country, but she was hardly living the Wine County lifestyle. There were some weeks she wasn’t sure the food in her household would last to the end of the week. And if it weren’t for her generous parents’ endless supply of TP, bathroom time would be plenty awkward. But there were many good times in this poor season of life, and countless moments of laughter, as well. This girl wrote about all of that – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Through her writing, she made friends with people who could relate to her triumphs and sorrows.

This new community of readers weren’t the only people who noticed. The local newspaper, where this girl now worked in the ad department, caught wind of this girl’s blog. And because they loved it, they offered this girl an even larger platform to share her stories. Naturally, this girl said yes.

In the following years, this girl continued to share her stories, now with a larger audience. She wrote about life as a single mother, parenting tips she’d learned along the way, her budding romance with a new man (who would one day be her husband), and the transition her life took from single parenthood into blended family. She remained perfectly candid, a virtue that drew her audience in as she admitted imperfections, as well as the beautiful parts of her family despite their many flaws. She remained real, vulnerable, completely raw. There were times she’d hesitate before pushing that publish button, then hold her breath when she inevitably did. It was a terrifying and exhilarating feeling to bare so much of her soul. And much of the feedback she received was from people who were certain they were the only ones who’d ever experienced what she had written about, and found a soul sister in this girl through the truth she’d unveiled.

But not everyone loved this girl’s brave sharing.

Ever hear of trolls? These are little creatures with wrinkled souls who hide under the bridges of blogs as they wait for their next victim. Their main objective is to ensure no one feels too good about themselves. They plant the seed of hate, then entice people to water it through conversation. Their biggest tool is to write things so hateful, it’s almost impossible to ignore. But once you respond to a troll, you lose power. And the troll? They only grow stronger.

When your platform consists of the same people who read the newspaper, the trolls are aplenty (and if you’ve ever read the comments on any article on any newspaper, you know what I mean).

Among the lovely people who offered lovely words to any of this girl’s blog articles, there were also ugly-souled people who attacked her choice to leave her abusive husband and become a single mother, her blossoming romance with a new man while she was supposed to be caring for her kids, and anything else they could find fault with in the words she chose to share about her personal life. This girl remained strong, though all of these words stung. It was like the trolls had discovered all of her inner thoughts and fears, and were now laying them out in the comments of her blogs for the world to digest. Each comment inflicted pain, but she strengthened her armor and kept going. However, when the trolls turned their comments toward this girl’s children, she pulled the plug to her blog. The girl removed her blog from the newspaper and said goodbye to the audience she had built. Then she began blogging in a much more private arena. No one knew her. No one commented. No one said mean things, nice things…anything.

But this was just fine with the girl. It allowed her that perfect break to come back to center and figure out what exactly she wanted to share with the world. With her kids now in their teen years, it was no longer appropriate to write about them on a family blog. It seemed Wine Country Mom had run its course.

Meanwhile, this girl had tackled a new arena of writing – the almighty novel. She set up a website as she put forth her new novel, complete with a brand new blog. But with this blog, the girl found herself in unfamiliar territory. What the heck did she write about? She’d spent so long writing about her life as a mother, that writing about her life as a writer felt foreign and strange. She had no audience, no one who was familiar with her work, no one to talk to at all through this blog. She began writing about her book, but that got old fast. She felt uninteresting. So she began writing about writing itself, specifically in terms of books. But she felt like a fraud because she was still figuring this stuff out, herself.

The blog soon felt like an albatross. She was reading so many tips on keeping an author blog that she started to feel like everything she wrote in her blog was all wrong. Soon, she lost her reason for even wanting to keep a blog at all. It wasn’t about baring pieces of her soul anymore, it was about how to get attention. It all felt fake and contrived. It felt like work. And when January of this year hit, this girl stopped writing in her blog altogether.

Me and my Mr. Wonderful.
Me and my Mr. Wonderful. I think we both had mouthfuls of food when this picture was taken.
This girl, of course, being ME.
So here I am, having ignored this blog because I’m afraid I have nothing to say, or that I’m boring people with the bits and pieces of my life, or that I might give you the wrong idea if I have an opinion on anything, or that I might get too personal, or I might not be personal enough. I’m afraid someone I know will read this blog and wonder who the heck I think I am trying to fool. I’m afraid someone I don’t know will read this and wonder how someone who thinks the way I think or writes the way I write or likes the things I like ever thought she could actually write a book and sell it. I’m afraid I’ll break some cardinal rule of author blogs by oversharing or undersharing or writing against my genre or being too opinionated or wishy-washy or attracting the wrong people or not being witty enough….

Omg. It’s just too much! I’m done with being paralyzed. I’m done with thinking there’s someone I’m supposed to be or something specific I’m supposed to write about. I’m done with thinking I need to be writing to a certain group of people or write a certain way when all I can do is be myself and write the way I write.

The end!

So from this day forward, I declare this a themeless blog. If I want to write about books, I’ll write about books. If I was to write about faith, I will write about faith. If I want to write about life, especially the messy parts, you’re damn straight I’ll be writing about life. If I want to write about love, family, my dog, how much I hate cleaning, what I had for dinner, my favorite TV obsession, an author I’m crushing on (Hi Colleen Hoover!), or anything else, I’m just going to throw it up here on the pages.

You all right with that? Doesn’t matter. 😉

Let’s just be real, k?

Living a life of intention, one year at a time

Intention. It’s kind of a loaded word, isn’t it? Used in past tense, it takes on the weight of guilt over things planned that never quite happened. I intended to organize my closet. I intended to wash the dishes. I intended to go to that seminar. Use it in present tense, and there’s a sense of what we wish to do, but already know won’t happen. I intend to run a mile today. I intend to improve my job skills. I intend to not waste all day on my phone. The word “intention” goes along with “good intentions” – as in, “He had good intentions when he made such and such mistake.”

There’s just a lot of baggage that comes with the word “intention.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about intention this week – but not the word that’s weighted down with preconceived notions or missed opportunities. I’ve been thinking about it in terms of what I intend – really intend – for my life. What am I doing now to ensure my intentions come true?

IMGP7118Much of this reflection has to do with the fact that this is my last week of being 36. Today is my last day at that age. Tomorrow starts a brand new year, the first day of a new age when I get to take the first step of who I will be at 37.

The other day, I had my annual freak out about getting older. Usually it’s reserved for the day before my birthday. This year, however, it came a few days early. And as I dealt with it, I did something I usually try to avoid doing – I broadcast my negativity on Facebook.

There’s something I noticed about sharing negativity. No one wants to be around it. I put my misery about getting older out for public consumption, hoping for a few virtual hugs from friends across the board. And I received that in a small dose. But for the most part, people avoided my post like the plague. And a few refused to feed into my pity party, reminding me to put things in perspective and remember all I had to be grateful for. One person even gave me a “good grief,” and mused whether I should even have birthdays at all. I came back to that last comment several times since it was posted, glaring at it for the insinuation at my ridiculousness. Of course I don’t want to celebrate birthdays. Each birthday makes me a whole year older!

There was a time when I was younger when I swore I’d be one of those women who aged gracefully. I knew of this one lady who had the most beautiful long, gray hair, and she wore it proudly. I wanted to be her when I grew up, never dyeing my hair or cutting it short like every other woman once they hit a certain age.

And then I hit my 30s.

Turning 30 wasn’t so bad. I was anxious to leave the immaturity and bad decisions of my 20s and enter a decade when I knew how to live my life and make good choices. I celebrated turning 30, and was excited to be that age. A whole year passed, and 31 stared me in the face. I didn’t think anything of it in those days before I turned 31. To celebrate, I even planned a trip with my best friend and my kids to the Happiest Place On Earth. That’s right, I turned 31 in Disneyland. It was the perfect plan…or so I thought.

The day before 31, we got to Disneyland and immediately made our way around the park to each of the rides. It’s almost like blinders came off my eyes. I suddenly became aware of all the adorable teenage girls that were surrounding us, the ones in edgy fashions, hanging on their boyfriends, all smiles and youthfulness. And me? I was the old crone with a couple of kids tagging along, sporting a pair of mom jeans because that’s what fit me in the moment. For the first time, I felt old.

The next day was my 31st birthday. I remember staring in the mirror, trying to get my hair to set right. Nothing was working. My friend wanted me to hurry. I snapped at her. She kept her cool, gently telling me she’d take the kids to breakfast while I finished getting ready. She left. And I sat in that room and cried.

It was the first year I ever cried about my birthday. And every year since, it has happened without fail. I always swear it won’t happen. I swear I will greet my birthday as a celebration of my life, a celebration of ME. It is my intention to not be bummed out about something as trivial as getting older. And each year, my intention fails.

This was one of those years that I intended not to cry about my birthday. But this year, I also expected the dark cloud to settle in. So when my bad mood struck a few days early, I celebrated THAT – my depression over turning a new number. I reveled in my misery, inviting everyone around me to partake in my pity party. And when even my own husband refused to dance in my dark corner, I plummeted even further into the depths of my despair. I was bound and determined to be pitiful. And darn it, if I didn’t succeed.

That was Thursday. Friday, I snapped out of it and recreated my intention – to NOT be pitiful. I started the day out by taking the dog for a walk in the drizzle, letting the droplets of water wash away the dark cloud. I then stopped at the store to buy a box of treats for my coworkers, and then spoiled myself with a cup of overpriced (but delicious) coffee. I got to work and sent out a mass email to everyone, letting them know that my birthday was on Sunday, and I had treats at my desk to celebrate. All day long, I had coworkers visiting me to wish me happy birthday. It felt good. My intention of choosing happiness was way better than my intention of being miserable.

This new year of my life, I have some true intentions for my life – not the kind that I hope to do, but the kind that I WILL do.

– I will be more intentional with my writing and publishing this year, taking this career path to a whole new level, and helping those writers around me through support and sharing what I know.
– I will be more intentional about getting out of debt so that I can have more freedom with my money and the plans I have for my life.
– I will be more intentional about my health, because I am much happier when I am eating right, getting exercise, and actually fitting into my clothes.
– I will be more intentional with my time, remaining focused on the plans I have for my life and deflecting distractions that serve to keep me from achieving my goals.

This year I also intend to grow out the hair I cut short last year. I miss my long hair! But I stop short at letting it go gray. I can only age gracefully one step at a time.

Goodbye 36. Hello 37.

Feeling funky

purposeThis morning was really bad. My dog, the one I spoil with remnants of my breakfast and who spends the evenings sleeping at my feet, bit me. Then, just to rub salt in the wound, he ran away after one of the kids left the gate open. I spent 30 minutes trying to coax him back in, trying not to let it show in my voice how much I wanted to murder him. When he finally tired of the chase game around the block and I could get close enough to catch him, I had to throw him in his kennel to save him from me. I was so frustrated that every single thing beyond my ornery dog felt like too much. I spent a lot of time this morning crying and feeling sorry for myself, and it carried into the majority of my day.

I’m a firm believer that we manifest whatever our main focus is. If we focus on love and light and all things positive, blessings and peace will wrap us in their embrace. But if we focus on evil and hard times and all things unfair and negative, we are inviting bad things into our life. I knew this today, even as I left the cloud of despair hanging over my head. I knew that the longer I settled into my funk, the longer the funk would own me.

Know what? I didn’t care.

I eventually had to go to work. I cannot begin to tell you the exact number of times I thought about driving past my exit, and just going until I ran out of gas. I didn’t, of course. To keep driving would rid me of the incredible experience of feeling sorry for myself at work. I walked into the office, avoiding everyone, and sat in my chair. And I booted up my email. There in my email was a note from my boss, letting me know that little old me would be conducting a training on our computer system, all by lonesome. Me. In my funk. Teaching people things.

I’m proud to say that I continued my funk, except this time with tears.

I was a pathetic mess. My boss came over and I couldn’t even look him in the eye, I was so mad. How could he spring this on me? Didn’t he know I was in a funk? Couldn’t he just understand without my having to tell him that I had planned on spending the whole day not talking to anyone as I felt sorry for myself? He didn’t, of course. In fact, he pretended that my tears weren’t even there. And he pointed out all the parts I needed to cover and then left me to stew in my misery.

The dreaded hour came, and the receptionist in the lobby let me know my trainee was here. I hid my resentment and put on my best smile, knowing that even in my funk, it wasn’t fair to subject a perfect stranger with my impressive bad mood. Then I led the trainee to my desk, and spent an hour teaching him everything I knew about the computer program I was training him on. When it was over, I led him back to the front door where he promised to invite my husband and I over for a housewarming. And then we parted ways.

As I ascended the stairs to come back to my desk, I searched for my dark cloud of gloom. But it was nowhere to be found. Instead, a prayer of gratitude graced my lips.

“Thank you, God.”

Seems someone had a hand in ridding me of my bad mood with a little social persuasion. I wasn’t going to do it myself; the misery was too rich. But it doesn’t help me, or anyone around me, to remain in my funky mood forever. God knew this. And despite my stubborn resolve to stay angry, He had other plans. And He did this by forcing me to think of something, anything!, other than myself.

I found the above picture today in the moment that my funky mood vacated the premises. What caught my eye was “Having a rough morning?” Yes. I did. “Place your hand over your heart.” Okay. “Feel that? That’s called purpose. You’re alive for a reason. Don’t give up.”

There are times when that funky mood is so downright rotten, to even think about pulling yourself up out of it is simply laughable. It’s okay to feel rotten. When you find yourself in that space, take a moment to dwell on every single horrible thing that’s plaguing your life. Simmer in it for a few moments, or a few hours if you have to. And then, when you’re ready….

….let it go.

You may need to coax your way away from the funk. Enlist a friend to help you. Or take a moment to do something nice for someone else. Do whatever it takes to take the focus off of you and your bad stuff and onto someone or something else.

Because if we focus on evil and hard times and all things unfair and negative, we are inviting bad things into our life. But if we focus on love and light and all things positive, blessings and peace will wrap us in their embrace.